Sunday, July 20, 2014

What big, really really big government spending did to the American economy.

Sorry for the posting error, below. It's a computer glitch that I don't have access to fix. (Corrected now. --Steve M.) Here's what I meant to Post:

We’re approaching the 45th anniversary of Americans to be the first people to walk on the moon. The date is July 24. This seems like the perfect time to send a reminder to the nincompoops who want to slash government spending and leave economic development to the so-called “free market.” 

Here’s a partial –very partial – list of some of the profitable products they would have killed if they killed one of the biggest government spending programs in history.
  • Freeze dried food
  • Lightweight film space blankets
  • Cochlear implants
  • The dust buster you use to clean the crap off your car upholstery
  • Infrared ear thermometers – so much easier than the Tea Party temperature taking method of shoving a narrow tube of mercury-filled glass up your butt
  • New kinds of water purification systems.  (Your dentist may be using one to keep from squirting polluted gunk under your gums
  • Collision avoidance systems, soon to be applied to saving your butt when you fall asleep at the wheel
  • Better prosthetic limbs, one of the reason so many of our wondered war vets can walk, or even run, rather than hobble or spend their lives tethered to a wheel chair
  • Automatic insulin pumps, so that fat (and fat-headed) Tea Partiers can complain the gubmint has no business regulating what people put in our food while enjoying the benefits of Obamacare or Medicare

As I said, this was a very partial list.There are at least 1650 other space program spinoffs in the fields of computer technology, environment and agriculture, health and medicine, public safety, transportation, recreation, and industrial productivity. For more of these fascinating spinoffs of space science, go here: 

The cost of the space program? Adjusted for inflation, it came to $851,000,000,000, according to one sourceq. It was money well spent because all the spinoffs not only made life better for Americans, they made jobs, by the hundreds of thousands and pretty much paid for themselves by growing and enriching the economy over time.

It’s time to put the government back in business again, before the tax-cutting, job-killing, progress-killing, technology-hating right wingers do more damage than that they already have turning the United States of America into a banana republic. 

P.S. My pal Garth Hallberg has taken the paranoid fantasies of the right wing – the ones that insist the whole moon shot happened in a TV studio and is part of a left wing plot to uh, you know, kill freedom – and had some fun with it in a delightful book called, “Boon Juster Or The Reason For Everything.” Take it to the beach with you while there’s still some summer left. And when you read it please remember that the numbskulls actually believe this stuff.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank


Unknown said...

Not coincidentally, it also allowed me to have a computer sit on my lap. And to think, we were once proud of these things...

The New York Crank said...

Quite right, Peabody. I remember, back in 1965, working on an IBM TV spot which explained that a huge amount of data could now be store in a computer the size of a shoebox, and would be used for space flights. The memory capacity. Hold on to your chair. Nine kilobytes - yes kilobytes, and yes, only nine – stored on a bunch of tiny magnetic rings.

It was clear to NASA that they had to do better. The microchip was the answer. The R&D money came largely, if not entirely, from the U.S. government.

The free market? It didn't give a flying flower. It saw nothing wrong with room-sized computers, kept in air-conditioned chambers that needed to be filtered for dust and that were visited only by people in lint-free coveralls.

Anonymous said...

I've always been against funding manned space travel, and this argument has never swayed me.

I'm all for government funding of research for stuff like insulin pumps and whatnot. But let's just fund the research directly. Why send the funding through a Rube Goldberg device with unknown outcomes and with most of it being wasted on sending a person in space.

I mean, if we'd spent all that $851,000,000,000 on direct medical and tech research, maybe we'd have many more life-saving breakthroughs. Surely we wouldn't have any fewer.

I get that in today's political climate, it's highly unlikely that we'd get money approved for... pretty much anything. So I can see that backdoor argument for manned space travel. But it should never be the primary goal. Manned space travel itself hasn't produced much of use even though it has cost a huge amount of money and more than a few lives.

(Please note that I am specifying *manned* space travel. I can see the value in stuff like the Mars rover, and those unmanned programs are far cheaper.)

The New York Crank said...

The thing is, tg, we didn't even know that going to the moon would lead to an insulin pump, or to the kind of computer graphics we have today. Or to squeezing several hundred gigabites of memory onto a doohickey the size of your thumb. That stuff wasn't even on the horizon. It was the urgent need to develop one thing that led to many other things.

Here's an alliterative three word mantra for you. Science is serendipitous. The answer to your question isn't necessarily where you're looking, because Science is Serendipitous. And for that matter, you may not necessarily be asking the right question.

While Nixon announced a war on cancer, it was the exploration of DNA and its many ramifications that are critical to most of today's advanced treatments.

Who knows where we'll find the next potent anticancer weapon? Inside the stomach of a frog? Inside a gene at the bottom of an obscure helix. Inside a dissected section of Ted Cruz's brain? (We should be so lucky!)

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

PurpleGirl said...

NY Crank: Your answer to tgchicago is so spot on. I've spent time as a science geek and took my BA in political science. The one thing I know for sure is that you can have an idea about what you want to find and not find it. On the other hand, a side step can lead to something wonderful and extraordinary. The idea for DNA being a helix was one such side step. Science isn't linear but is more tree-like with branches and large limbs and small twigs. It is messy.

I make beaded jewelry. I love dichroic glass beads. I use them a lot in my work. Dichroic glass had been known since the late 1800s but it was very expensive. Its use in the space program brought the price down and spurred research in more efficient means of manufacture. It's still expensive but not as expensive as it might have been and it's more available for people to use in their crafts.